Major League Baseball's winter meetings have become an annual source of offseason news and a rumor bonanza, and the Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be one of this winter's most involved clubs.
The Phillies, who set out to fill three positions—center field, third base and setup man—have come up empty so far this offseason. Now there is plenty of time remaining before spring training and the Phillies still have options, but there is no doubt that the countdown is own.
Because each team sends an entourage of personnel to the winter meetings, they've become a popular source of rumors and "reach for the stars" kind of deals. The Phillies could use one of those right now.
This slideshow will serve as a primer for the winter meetings from a Phillies perspective. This is a list of who they should target and why. If a player appears on this list, it means that he is a player that I believe the Phillies should do their best to acquire.
Mike Adams is kind of in a class of his own this winter. First, he's coming off of offseason surgery, but won't be looking to "rebuild his value"—he still has plenty of value as a setup man. Second, he is one of the few guys on the market that made his name pitching in the eighth inning, which, from a "comfort level" standpoint, has to be valuable.
So what is Adams worth to the Phillies?
This one is interesting. The Phillies definitely need someone to step in and take over in the eighth inning. It was a position that crippled them at times during the 2012 season. But how much money do they need to spend there?
The 2012 season was also a valuable season for guys like Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont, who could be setup men in the near future, if not next season.
Adams is going to command a multi-year commitment from whoever signs him, and the truth is that I don't expect it to be the Phillies. I think they'll go the "less expensive" route and swing a trade for a surprise name, a la the now-defunct Wilton Lopez deal.
If the Phillies want to acquire a reliever that fits all of their needs, they're going to have do a little "outside the box" thinking this offseason, and though their pursuit of Wilton Lopez fell through, it shows that they were on the right track.
One guy that they could turn their attention to now is Colorado Rockies reliever Matt Belisle. Although there hasn't been much indication that the Rockies are shopping Belisle, it would be the kind of proposal that they would have to listen to if a team comes calling.
The Rockies, who probably aren't going to contend in 2013, could deal one of their quality bullpen arms for a starting pitching prospect with some upside.
If there is a reliever who has been further under the radar than Belisle since 2010, I'm struggling to find him. He is a groundball pitcher with a solid repertoire, and if I'm the Phillies, he's at the top of my wish list as far as bullpen trade targets are concerned.
Michael Bourn has got to be itching to sign a new contract. His market is drying up, and fast.
When the offseason began, Bourn had three big suitors—the Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Well, the Braves went after BJ Upton and got a deal done. The Nationals turned to the trade market and acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins.
That leaves the Phillies as Bourn's biggest suitor, and while there are other teams that could jump into the mix (like the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds), Bourn and agent Scott Boras have got to be sweating just a little bit.
So the Phillies have quite a bit of leverage here and plenty of options left on the market. There is no need for them to overpay for a guy like Bourn, who could decline rapidly over the course of his next contract. They'll be interested, and rightfully so, but I expect the Phils to look elsewhere.
At the end of the day, the Phillies may be comfortable with Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis playing third base. Frandsen is a great contact hitter and Galvis is a sensational defender. But I expect them to explore all of their options, and calling the Los Angeles Angels about Alberto Callaspo should be one.
The Angels recently tendered Callaspo a contract for the 2013 season, and it isn't entirely clear whether or not they'd be open to discussing a deal for the third baseman.
However, the Halos are also a team that is in a bit of a bind for starting pitching, even with Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and now Tommy Hanson on the books.
Callaspo isn't going to hit for much power, but he is a great defender and a solid switch-hitter who tends to find his way on base. The Phillies could use a guy like Callaspo at the top of their lineup.
Because he struggles against left-handed pitching, Shin-Soo Choo probably isn't the most ideal fit for the Phillies, but he is the kind of guy that they should at least call the Cleveland Indians about.
Choo, who missed a lot of time in 2012 with an injury, is an affordable corner outfielder, and the Phillies could certainly use one of those. But the Indians' asking price is said to be high and Choo isn't the greatest fit for this club, so the Phillies wouldn't overpay in terms of prospects.
Choo is also represented by agent Scott Boras, so the thought of a contract extension after acquiring him would be almost non-existent.
The Kansas City Royals have spent most of their offseason bolstering a lackluster starting rotation by re-signing the likes of Jeremy Guthrie and adding guys like Ervin Santana. The Royals' pursuit of pitching has gone as far as shopping top prospect Wil Myers for pitchers in the mold of Boston's Jon Lester and Tampa Bay's James Shields.
The Phillies obviously can't offer that kind of deal.
However, the Royals do have a surplus of relief pitching and rumor has it that they would be be willing to trade some of it in exchange for a starting pitcher and salary relief (or, more specifically, the inquiring team taking on Jeff Francouer's contract).
So this is a deal completely out of left field, but what if the Phillies were to offer the Royals Vance Worley for Aaron Crow, Greg Holland and Jeff Francouer? Seems like a deal that could work for both sides.
I'm obviously rambling a bit. Crow would fit into the Phillies' eighth inning role with ease. He's found a home in the bullpen and was excellent for the Royals in 2012.
I have a gut feeling that says the Phillies have not closed the door on Josh Hamilton.
With Hamilton, it is all about minimizing the risk. There are obviously some things that you cannot control. For example, the onus is on Hamilton to keep up with both his off-the-field issues and his on-the-field issues, such as expanding the strike zone at a mile-a-minute clip.
But one of the ways teams can minimize the risk of signing Hamilton is adding fallback options, and that is why I believe they never made a strong enough offer to BJ Upton. Adding a centerfielder at an affordable rate would allow the Phillies to throw money at Hamilton on a short-term contract and not bust if he falters.
It's just a gut feeling, but I believe this is why we haven't seen the Phillies linked extensively to Michael Bourn either. Ruben Amaro, Jr. likes to make a splash, and it is my opinion that he could leave the winter meetings with both Hamilton and Angel Pagan.
Where did all of the quality third basemen go?
The Phillies have spent the offseason looking for a third baseman, and so far, have come up empty. This isn't particularly surprising. They've swung and missed in every deal for a third baseman since they traded Scott Rolen to St. Louis.
The free-agent market is bleak in 2013, and now that David Wright has agreed to a contract extension with the New York Mets, next winter's class is equally as bad. If the Phillies want to get real value in a third baseman, they'll have to explore the trade market.
One guy that I keep coming back to is Chase Headley. A right-handed power hitter and good defender, he would fit perfectly into the Phillies lineup. The real problem here is that the San Diego Padres don't have to move him, and as a result, his price is said to be sky high.
But the Padres are another team in need of difference-making starting pitching, and with young third baseman Jedd Gorkyo waiting in the wings, one would assume that they would part with Headley in the right deal.
So what would it take?
If I'm the Padres, I'd ask for a starting pitcher who could make a difference now (Vance Worley), one that could make a difference in the future (Trevor May) and a player with a lot of upside (guys like Roman Quinn, Maikel Franco, Carlos Tocci, etc).
So if the base of the deal is, for example, Worley, May and Quinn, how much more would it take to pry Headley away from San Diego?
I don't think the Kansas City Royals would move Kelvin Herrera, but he's fun to watch.
Herrera had a breakout season in 2012, and it isn't hard to figure out why. He is a right-handed flamethrower whose fastball, the fastest in the game last season, averaged 97.4 mph. Off of that, he'll throw a filthy changeup that averaged 86.3 mph.
Nothing like more than a 10 mph difference to make a hitter look silly.
But the Royals won't be in any hurry to deal Herrera. He is just 22 years old and has the future of a darn good closer. The Phillies would likely have to pay quite a bit in terms of prospects to pry him away, but I'd call and ask anyway.
Greg Holland is another Kansas City Royals reliever that the Phillies should be asking about. Right now, the Royals are not in a position to hoard relievers in their pursuit of a starting pitcher. While the Phillies likely wouldn't deal Vance Worley straight up for a reliever, they have other, younger options to offer the Royals.
Holland would be a nice fit for the Phillies. He's a hard throwing right-handed reliever with a great slider and he racks up the strikeouts with the best of them. Control has been an issue, but he is exactly the kind of young, affordable reliever that the Phils are searching for.
With solid starting pitching depth, this isn't a market that the Phillies are going to go crazy in, but one guy that could be a valuable quasi-depth move is Jair Jurrjens, recently non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves.
When you look at his 2012 season, there are no two ways about it—Jurrjens was just bad. But that doesn't mean that he is never going to have another good season.
If you can get a guy like Jurrjens on a two-year deal worth $8-10 million, that's a risk you should take. As long as he is healthy, there is no reason that Jurrjens can't be a quality fifth starter for a team like the Phils.
The Phillies still need a centerfielder, and Angel Pagan is still on the market. Given the fact that the Phillies haven't seemed overly interested in a reunion with either of their former center fielders now on the market (Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino), this seems like a natural fit.
With Pagan, it is all about price. He isn't the flashiest name on the market and doesn't have the largest body of work, so getting him at a price that limits the risk while leaves room for the reward is essential.
At 31 years old, Pagan is likely going to be looking for a four-year deal, and if the Phillies are willing to go to four years, they should not be comfortable paying Pagan any more than $44-46 million.
However, if I were in charge of things (and thank goodness I'm not), Pagan is the type of guy that I'd be willing to spend a bit more on to get him on a three-year deal. Maybe three years and $38-40 million.
Cody Ross' initial asking price this winter was in the three years and less than $30 million range, so the fact that he is still on the market should go to show you that he probably won't be landing that three-year deal this winter.
With that being said, Ross is an interesting option for a team like the Phillies on a two-year deal. His splits from the 2012 season show that he benefited quite a bit from playing his home games at Fenway Park last season, but he has also played well in Citizens Bank Park in the past.
Ross is a solid left fielder and could be the right-handed power bat the Phillies have been looking for (and for relatively cheap). He is at least worth an inquiry at the winter meetings.
With the amazingly horrific rate at which he strikes out always prevalent, Mark Reynolds is not going to be at the very top of any club's free-agent wish list, but Reynolds, who was recently non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles, could help a lot of clubs.
With Reynolds, it's all about getting what you pay for. He is a bad defender who should be a designated hitter and he strikes out a ton. Other than that, he hits home runs. That's Reynolds' game in a nutshell.
For the Phillies, it is important to do some due diligence on a guy like this. He could be the right-handed power bat they've been looking for and a low-risk option at third base.
But again, it's all about keeping that risk low. A minor league signing for a guy like Reynolds would be preferable.
How do you fill your eighth-inning setup role both cheaply and effectively? With the volatile nature of being a reliever these days, that isn't exactly a simple thing to accomplish.
One of the Phillies' best markets this winter may be the one that features a slew of injured relievers searching for one-year deals to rebuild their value, and the best one available may be Joakim Soria.
Soria, who is recovering from a second Tommy John surgery, won't be ready to start the season until May. If the Phillies could get him cheap enough, holding down the fort until Soria is ready to return isn't the worst idea in the world.
So when Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that the Chicago Cubs would be willing to trade outfielder Alfonso Soriano at the winter meetings and that the Phillies could have some interest in the outfielder, I kind of laughed it off.
Actually, I was a little harsher than that.
Alfonso Soriano is probably THE worst thing the #Phillies could do this winter, unless they're paying him practically nothing.
— Greg Pinto (@Greg_Pinto) December 1, 2012
And on a lot of levels, I still believe that.
Soriano is a 36-year-old outfielder who has looked terrible defensively in recent seasons and has had a couple of good seasons mixed in with a couple of horrific ones. Sounds like a huge risk for a guy who is still owed $36 million over two seasons.
But what if the Cubs were willing to eat most of that?
When you take a look at this free-agent market for corner outfielders, you aren't going to find many solutions, and none of them are cheap. Guys like Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher are impact players, but they're going to cost a pretty penny.
That's where a guy like Soriano could be valuable. If the Phillies were going to take on Soriano for the final two years of his contract, they would have to get him at a bargain rate. Now, the Cubs are in a rebuilding mode and will, without a doubt, be willing to eat salary. The more salary they eat, the better the prospect they'll get in return.
For the Phillies to make Soriano work, they would probably have to get him on a two-year, $16-18 million a year deal. That would have the Cubs eating about $18-20 million. Would they be willing to absorb that much salary to make Soriano go away?
What kind of prospect would they ask for in return?
So I'll revise my previous opinion. It wouldn't the worst thing the Phillies could do, but it is a long shot.
I still don't think it is going to happen, but I'd ask anyway.
When you look at what the Phillies lineup is missing, it isn't hard to come up with an answer. Assuming they'll fill their center field role and find a warm body to play third base, this is a lineup sorely lacking right-handed power.
I'd say that Giancarlo Stanton provides a bit of that.
But he is the Last of the Mohicans (or Miami Marlins, whatever), and his price is going to be astronomically high. The Marlins have maintained that they're not interested in trading him, but if they do, it is going to be for at least three of any team's top five prospects and then some.
For the Phillies, I think we'd be talking about Vance Worley, Domonic Brown, Jesse Biddle, Trevor May and Tommy Joseph.
And I still don't think the Marlins would pull the trigger.
Ichiro Suzuki is a player that I have a hard time picturing in a Phillies uniform, but he was also a guy whom I had a hard time picturing wearing anything but a Seattle Mariners uniform before last season, and the possibility of him wearing yet another new uniform is at least a little bit better today than it was yesterday.
George A. King III of the New York Post recently wrote that re-signing with the New York Yankees was anything but a foregone conclusion for Ichiro, who has been in contact with multiple clubs.
Could one of those clubs have been the Phillies? The Phils need to add at least one corner outfielder in some way, shape or form, and Ichiro is probably one of the "cheaper" options available, as opposed to the top tier of guys like Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher.
If he could be had on a one-year deal, Ichiro would make a good bit of sense for the Phillies, even at 39 years old. He seemed rejuvenated by his stint with the Yankees when he hit .322 / .340 / .454 in 67 games.
Nick Swisher may be a long shot for the Phillies at this point because he is the kind of guy that tends to find his way to the top of a lot of teams' wish list. He isn't going to be as expensive as Josh Hamilton, but will provide some offense, and that makes him valuable.
For the Phillies, he wouldn't be a priority. That would be getting a centerfielder signed. Finding a corner outfielder—preferably one with some right-handed pop—would be third or fourth on their to-do list, but maybe a bit more pressing now that they've non-tendered Nate Schierholtz.
Swisher's value isn't hard to pin down. He'll have plenty of suits and shouldn't have much of a problem securing a four-year deal. It's all about the price, which will likely be in the $48-56 million range.
Koji Uehara had an incredible season in 2012—one that raises the old eyebrow a bit. His numbers across the board are nothing short of spectacular, and there is little indication that he can't repeat that success in 2013.
The big "red flag" surrounding Uehara is his age. You have to worry about any pitcher at 37 years old, but Uehara hasn't slowed down over the last few seasons. In fact, you could argue that he's gotten better.
Given their recent pursuit of Houston Astros reliever Wilton Lopez, the Phillies may not want to commit a lot of money to a new setup man, which is understandable given the money they have tied up in closer Jonathan Papelbon.
But if you're going to throw some money at a reliever, there are few safer bets than Uehara, who can probably be had on a deal in the one-year, $4-5 million range.
Justin Upton is one of the best trade options available. He is young, under team control and a difference-maker offensively. What more can a contending team ask for? And that, in a nutshell, is why the Arizona Diamondbacks haven't traded him yet.
Sure, they have a surplus of outfielders that could play everyday, but this is a contending team. In order for them to trade Upton, they'd need to fill other holes, which would probably be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and a shortstop.
The only deal that I can see making sense is if the Phillies were willing to part with Cliff Lee and Freddy Galvis while paying the difference in salary. Upton is owed $38.5 million through the 2015 season. Lee is owed $87.5 million through the 2016 season.
The only way that this kind of deal makes sense for the Diamondbacks, in my opinion, is if the Phillies pay at least $40-45 million of Lee's salary.
Otherwise, the D'backs could just as easily send Upton to a team like the Texas Rangers, who has the elite prospects necessary to complete a deal.
I'd ask about Upton, but the Phillies don't have what it takes to get a deal done.
This ship has probably sailed, but the Phillies aren't exactly in a position to burn all of their bridges down.
The trade that sent Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers was as much symbolic as it was necessary from a baseball operations standpoint last season. It was a message that the Phillies wanted to change their approach, and someone had to take the fall.
Sure, the Phillies got an interesting reliever in the deal (Josh Lindblom) and a few solid prospects (Ethan Martin, Stefan Jarrin), but don't get it twisted; this trade was as much symbolic as it was literal.
Now, if the Phillies feel as though they are out of other realistic options, I could see them bringing Victorino back, but it would have to be on their terms—cheap.
The Minnesota Twins are not going to be competing any time soon, apologies to any supporters. They just don't have the pitching to do it. With that having been said, trading off some of their expendable pieces could bring pitching back into the system, and the Phillies would surely have interest in outfielder Josh Willingham should he be made available.
Willingham hit 35 home runs for the Twins last season and was rewarded with a Silver Slugger for his efforts at the conclusion of the campaign.
From a Phillies perspective, he'd be exactly what the doctor ordered—an affordable, right-handed power bat that they could plug right into the middle of the order. It would likely take a nice pitching prospect for the Twins to deal Willingham, but the Phils have some depth there.
It feels like a strange day when words are put to paper about why the Phillies should pursue former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson. Why? Just because.
Following a second Tommy John surgery, Wilson was non-tendered by the Giants at the deadline and officially hit the open market as a free agent. Common sense says that he'll be looking for a one-year deal to rebuild his value, and Philly is a logical landing spot.
While I'm not sure if one bullpen can contain the egos and multiple personalities of both Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon, I do know that those would be two great, back of the bullpen-type relievers.
The Phillies need a third baseman, and Kevin Youkilis is the best free-agent option, which isn't saying much given the lack of depth.
With that having been said, Youkilis on a short-term contract could be beneficial for the Phillies. He had a dreadful 2012 season that featured everything from injury, to inconsistency, to drama in Boston, to a midseason trade.
What I'm trying to say here is that getting Youkilis in an environment where he can focus on baseball and baseball alone could be a good idea. But with any risky free agent, it's all about price. I wouldn't pay anymore than $8-10 million per year for Youkilis at this point in his career, and he'll probably get two years.